Central to Creativity – Charlotte Moorman

tvbra2For 2017’s Arts and Humanities Month, the blog will focus on cultural personalities who are connected with Little Rock Central High School.

Up first – the Topless Cellist, a 1951 graduate.  Charlotte Moorman

Born in Little Rock, at the age of ten she began to study cello.  After graduating from Little Rock high school in 1951, she attended Centenary College.  She undertook subsequent studies at the University of Texas and Julliard.

After spending time with the American Symphony Orchestra, she participated in the experimental art scene including with her friend Yoko Ono.

In 1963 Moorman founded the Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York, which presented the experimental music of the Fluxus group and Happenings alongside performance, kinetic art, and video art. Despite the event’s title the festival was not held annually. There were fifteen festivals from 1963 to 1980.

On February 9, 1967 Moorman achieved widespread notoriety for her performance of Paik’s Opera Sextronique at the Film-Makers Cinematheque in New York City. For this performance, Moorman was to perform movements on the cello in various states of nudity. For the second movement, she played International Lullaby by Max Matthews while wearing a black skirt, but while being topless, and was arrested mid-performance by three plainclothes police officers For her court trial, Moorman and Paik restaged and filmed the first two movements of Opera Sextronique with the filmmaker Jud Yalkut.

In the late 1970s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and further treatment, to continue performing through the 1980s in spite of pain and deteriorating health. She died of cancer in New York City on November 8, 1991, aged 57.



2 thoughts on “Central to Creativity – Charlotte Moorman

  1. In 2016 and 2017 there was a large retrospective of the life and work of Charlotte Moorman mounted by Northwestern University which traveled to New York and Austria. It opened to excellent reviews by the New York Times and was highly attended. It included a film which showed several Little Rock residents who recalled Charlotte from her young years. The Arkansas Arts Center did not respond to suggestions that it bring part of the show to Little Rock. The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies has explored hosting a small exhibit on Ms Moorman. A biography on Ms Moorman called The Topless Cellist has recently been published. Her childhood home on Rosetta Street was featured on a Facebook page called ” History of the Heights.” The article recalls Ms Moorman’s final visit to Little Rock in the later 20th Century when she led a parade hoisted in a hot air ballon, playing the cello.

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